TELLING 'EM OFF:
IN SPITE of the monotonous rattle of the disgruntled car which was freighting its regular cargo of weary-limbed, home-seeking passengers, there was still sufficient dominance in the tall person’s tones for his voice to carry clearly for the space of a half-dozen seats or more.
Yet it was the prideful scorn in his laughter, even more than the arrogance of the voice which first compelled my attention. There was a tang of the past in that laughter, particularly in its scorn.
So I shifted my newspaper just a trifle, and peered beyond the edge. This action synchronized with the words :
“Does he know what I think of him?” Laughter, deeply dyed with that decoration of scorn. “Well, what I said to him was a shame. Bo, what I didn’t say to him wasn’t worth thinking of.”
Across the top of the paper, I saw the tall, lanky form of the speaker, or rather, those fragments of him which were not wedged behind sections of humanity. His side was turned, and just now he appeared to be holding forth to an innocuous person at his elbow. But the voice, through which there now ran a familiar strain, was couched in that pleaselisten-to-me tone which was already causing some of his nearest neighbors to glower. Others appeared to be edging a trifle closer, as though keen to discover to whom their sympathies should be extended.
The pose of the man somehow seemed familiar. It brought a whip to memory, to the same extent that the voice and the laughter sort of harked back to something in the past and left the brain searching.
There was also a vague familiarity in the correctness, or rather in the loud precision, of the man’s clothing. Prosperity shimmered from him to such an extent that the first thought was that surely it must be all upon the surface.
Then the face turned and the eyes roved slowly ''own the line of strap-hangers, as though challeng-
ing others to come forth in admiration. The instant the face swerved about, that search in my brain ended.
It was Buil Slippington.
The recognition was mutual. Welcome flamed from Bud’s eyes, for here was another person to whom that tale of his could be told.
“And if it ain’t Freddie Keene,” he exclaimed, still in that incisive tone, and immediately ho began to plow his way down the string of strapholders.
Now, I dislike that name “Freddie." It didn’t get into the family Bible in just that way; besides, it is belittling. Some people can use the name in that form without reminding one of its littleness, but not so Bud Slippington. For Bud has the patronizing air, and he always uses it, even towards his seniors. And I am one of them, by two or three years.
“How’s old pal Freddie?” he demanded, in a key which served as my personal introduction to at least a score of strap-hangers.
Why Bud Changed Again P TO that moment, I had been feeling fine, but I did not tell him so. Instead, I switched the conversation with remarkable speed, for I knew there was only one topic in the world which Bud really wanted to discuss, and that was Bud.
“How’s the job coming, Bud?” I asked.
Bud’s face grew straight, and through firm lips he laughed that laugh of prideful scorn.
“It just ain’t, Freddie. You didn’t think I’d work for that old skinflint for a couple of lifetimes, did you, Freddie?”
“No, but I was beginning to think you were becoming a fixture . . .
at last.” ■---
For the life of me, I could not avoid putting a little of Bud’s own patronage into those two last words. r In a woman, it would have been cat-
“At last?” Laughter again. “Say,
Freddie, that old skinflint Grover and me couldn’t look through the same doughnut if it’s the last one in the world. Now, listen to me,
Freddie, I’m telling you something.
If you ever meet Grover, you steer around him like he’s a bag of poison, for if you don’t, it’s good-night for yours. He’ll get you in the end.
He ain’t such a bad old skate un to a certain point, but after that . . ”
“The deluge, I suppose?” I inquired, somewhat meekly, I must confess.
Bud laughed, at that remark of mine, which was an unusual thing.
Ordinarily he reserves his merriment for his own witticisms, but this time my remark left an opening for some more of Bud’s scorn to s’ip out, and he grasped it.
“The deluge?” Bud exclaimed.
“That’s just what old man Grover’s thinking about now, I’m betting.
Say, Freddie, I wised him up to himself alright. And if he believes one
quarter of what I told him, he’ll have to get his ears stiffeneil to keep his hat from hitting his shoulders. The old pelican! And I’m some teller. You know me, Freddie. That old parcel of human contrariness sure knows what I think of him.”
Bud paused, obviously for some remark of admira-
“You told him off, I gather?” I asked.
“Did I tell him off? You betcha.”
There was a lot more of it, details couched in such an incisive manner that all three of us, Bud Slippington, Grover, and myself, were adequately advertised long before the car reached my regular stop. So I decided that I needed some exercise, slipped off a half dozen blocks ahead of time, and escaped with a vast sigh of relief.
For a block or more my mind toyed idly with the past, wondering how old man Grover must be feeling after Bud’s telling off, and sympathizing, perhaps, just a trifle with the both of them. The facts, it iippeared, were that Bud, after working for nearly a year with Grover, and after encouraging his friends to think that he might, some day, become a fixture at something, had found it essential to his dignity to tell Grover many things about himself, his business, his personal habits, and goodness only knew how many other things.
For Bud, we all know, is a running starter at that “telling off” business, and he has never yet been known to quit before that part of his work was well done. But the upshot of it was that Bud was now on the list of the unemployed.
The thought of Bud and his special gift at “telling 'em off” clung for a definite number of strides, then it was lost somewhere among the pigeon-holes of memory.
The “New” Suit Gets Shabby
DUD SLIPPINGTON was a memory so far hidden behind the routine of life that I would probably never have thought of that incident again if he had not himself recalled it.
The recalling of it was a simple matter. That was merely a flash-back of the brain some six months later when Bud stepped into my office with his hat cocked on the back of his head and with the dangling •end of a cigarette at his lips.
“ ’Lo Freddie,” he greeted. “Know any old boys who’ve got the welcome sign painted on the front
That requires an interpretation, as it was merely a harping back to our collegiate days when Bud coined the phrase to apply to shopkeepers who wanted a little work done after school hours. So I knew instantly that Bud was still among the workless, and that knowledge flashed my brain back to the affair in which Grover was concerned.
Bud, one could see at first glance, was making a courageous struggle to keep up that prosperous front, but the suit, being of the same loud check, advertised itself as the one he bad been wearing when he let Grover in upon many things about himself. It was getting shabby now, and, when one came to look closer, so were the shoes and the hat.
My appraising glance was entirely involuntary, and therefore much more impertinent than I had intended it to be.
But Bud merely shrugged his shoulders and pulled his shirt cuffs up beyond vision. That act called my attention to the fact that they were fringed, and once in that train of mind, it becomes difficult to overlook those obvious flaws in Bud’s sartorial make-up.
“Sure, Freddie, been hitting the skids a little,” Bud confessed freely. “But I’ll come back all right, old boy. You’ll see me sitting on top of the pile yet. I’ve had to knock a few of them over, so I’ve got a pretty big stack ready.”
Even in his youth, Bud had talked in that circuitous manner, so I fancied I gathered his meaning.
“You mean you’re making a monument of all those bosses you’ve had to fire?”
I asked, and immediately appreciated that the question was none too polite.
“Right you are, Freddie. I’ve got ’em on my list, and when I get where I can take a good look at them from above,”
Bud paused with relish. “Say, boy .... they’re going to hear from me.”
“Haven’t been adding any to the list since Grover, have you?” It was sheer curiosity which prompted this question.
“Two of them, Freddie. I’m piling them high. They can come fast or slow, straight over the plate or under the hurdles, but they’re going to find that little Bud Slippington doesn’t have to take any of their dirt.”
That was a way Bud had. He possessed the knack of mixing metaphors in weird manner, and it seemed now that he could juggle jobs with the same fatality.
“Let’s hear about these last two.” I prompted as I handed a fresh cigarette over the desk.
The Perversities of Employers
DUD GAVE the details, without a second invitation.
He was so generous in sketching the perversities of those two definite employers, and he was so eager to paint his dismissal scenes with the exact shades of the sarcasm in his “telling off” that I began to suspect, long before he had finished, that he had come for no other purpose.
At the same time, I was forced to admit that Bud had a way with him, a certain force of invective, which must have made any but the most glibtongued employer writhe. Grover, I recalled, had run some sort of an advertising sheet, and Bud had done the canvassing. Now these two stray jobs which Bud had picked up since showed considerable descent. For a month he had solicited business for a photographic concern, but had found it necessary to “tell off” the boss because certain orders were a day late.
“That’s what’s the trouble with some of the rubes in this town,” Bud confided to me. “They send a slick chap out to get orders, and when he lands them, they don’t give him a chance. But old Finkle was a dub anyway. Say, Freddie, you should have heard what I told him. I bet he’ll walk around me for a year. He knows there’s one little boy in this burg who won’t lie down in the mud and beg Finkle to walk on him.
And say, Freddie, do you know old Hopper, over at Bosworth’s? You don’t? Well, it don’t matter.” Just here Bud paused long enough to get that scornful laughter of his working again. “Old Hopper thought he could teach me something about book-keeping, but Freddie, I forgot more about book-keeping years ago than that old stiffneck ever knew. You should see the antiques he keeps, and calls them books. I told him a thing or two. It makes me double up and laugh every time I think about it. That old stiff, who got his system out of the ark, thinking he could teach me anything! But from what 1 told him, Freddie, I bet he’ll go straight home and buy a coffin. . . ”
One could not deny the fact that Bud had a certain amount of breeziness of manner which lent interest to his experiences, and which, except for the frayed edges of his costume, might have made him something of a character.
Bud helped himself to two more cigarettes and rose to leave.
“Don’t know of any more of the old boys who are polishing up the welcome sign?” he asked, with a vague suggestion of wistfulness in his voice.
That wistfulness almost made me weaken.
There was a junior book-keeper’s position open right in my own office. Bud, I knew at once, could fill that post to the last letter, that is, up to a certain time. After that? The thought of “the deluge” was too much for me.
So I tossed on hat and coat.
“Take lunch with me, Bud,” I suggested.
He nodded gratefully, in a manner which betrayed the fact that even the stray free lunch made a difference to him.
“Now, you're the kind of a gink I’d like to work for,” Bud began confidentially, on the way to the lunch-room. “You’re the straight sort. V ou haven’t got any kinks in your hack, or any cross grains in you anywhere. You’d give a fellow a square deal. . .
Bud was still talking along that line when I left him after lunch. His remarks were highly flattering. They told me some of the things which I hoped were
true about myself. Still, I could not take the chance of putting them to the test. For there was Grover, who had turned out to be a cantankerous individual, meriting some of the most cutting of Bud’s epithets, and who, up to that time, I had regarded as being just a trifle more straight and free from kinks than myself.
So Bud is "Stalled" Again.
Ç0, INSTEAD of inviting Bud to fill that post, my ^ parting remark was a subterfuge.
“Drop around sometime, Bud."
I said it in just that indefinite way, and when Bud had vanished around the corner I found myself reflecting that he had always been just like that. At least, the streak had been in him ever since I knew
Even back in those collegiate days, Bud had worn his patch of tender dignity loosely balanced on his shoulder, with a “Dare” sign tacked in front of it. But that is not the way we looked at it then. For even we older boys regarded him as something of a hero, or as one of those champions who go out to fight the dragons in the cause of humanity.
To the best of my memory, the first dragon who spurred an outcropping of Bud’s pet vein of dignity was Plummer, the science master. There can be no doubt of it that Plummer was something of a curmudgeon, but the rest of us stood for his nagging as one of the inalienable punishments of youth. Not so Bud. The provocation is forgotten, but the scene when Bud stepped forth as the doughty knight remains fresh upon the memory.
For Bud opened up with a broadside of invective which was withering, and which left Plummer a palpitating wreck of anger. At least for a few minutes. After that came the second act to the scene when Bud, with a nonctoo-gentle hand on his collar, was propelled into some inner sanctum. Wihat happened there, none of us really ever knew, though we afterwards had Bud’s word for it that “What I told that old geezer will make his
hair stand for a week.”
I have suspected since that the actual scene was not so complimentary to Bud as his word-painting would indicate, but at the time we were compelled to accept his biased view of it, as that was the only one forthcoming.
There was a corollary, however, but that only added to Bud’s heroics. It took the form of a sharp suspension of Bud's educational career. Later, at the gate, when Bull's books were all neatly packed under an arm, hi* condescended to give us ciders a little sage advice.
“’S all right, hoys. I wouldn't stay in the same room with that old crawfish for a million dollars a minute, hut suit yourselves. You got to learn some time not to take everybody's lip, and if you let old short horn Plummer run on you after I'm gone, that is your own fault. But take it from me, kids, if you don't let them know you're alive, they’ll walk on you every time. . . . "
There was enough more of it, I remember, to tempi revint even on the part of hero-worshippers, but he Irf’ us in tim«* t«> our own \val!«»wii:jr mir«*.
Hud's First Jol» al Fm* Per.
N VIT KAM. Y, \\v kepi a keen eye on Hud Slipping-
ton for some time thereafter. A number of tu
secretly envied his courage, while others openly
Continuied on page 42
Telling ’Em Off
Continued from page 15
coveted the five a week which he shortly began to draw as extreme junior ] assistant in a drug-store.
It was not long, however, before Bud I disappeared from the drug store. We , older boys never quite collected the I real facts, but the gist of it which went ¡ the rounds was that the head drug clerk turned out to be something of a snob. I His penchant, it seemed, was to hurl ; daggers of sarcasm at Bud’s openlydisplayed dignity. As the story reached us, there was something about the ! drug-clerk having “turned pale with fury,” and some of us liked the phrase so well that we idolized Bud through another period of puppyism.
Just here comes an hiatus.
Bud, with his cumulative skill at “telling ’em off,” passed from the scenes for three or four years. I cannot recall having even thought of him for a long period, when he suddenly turned up in the office where I was getting my training. Bud stepped in as a junior, beneath me, which shows that he was considerably short of being within jumping distance of the first rung of the ladder, and that in spite of the fact that he had started some two years before me in the acquirement of a business career.
I believe it was then that I first began to appreciate that Bud was not a hero. My eyes were opening. I was battling in the hopper with at least a score more employes, and I actually was struggling because I simply could not lose that position. That, doubtless, was the reason I began to fall back upon the ancient art of diplomacy when the corners started to press too closely.
A job to me was a sacred thing. To Bud it was as casual as a passing snowflake.
That is how I came to discover that Bud, with the raw spots of his dignity placed well in the fore, was peering about waiting for the chance attack. Diplomacy? I don’t believe Bud ever heard of the word. Or if he did, he was too busy “telling ’em off” to discover the meaning of the term.
Yet, he still possessed the knack of making me feel like a down-trodden mongrel.
“Sort of riding you here, ain’t they?” he asked during one rather tortuous noon-day period. “That old half-baked Lester says what he likes to you. But he hadn’t better try it on me.”
“What would you do?” I asked, with a flash-back to the sheepishness of hero-worship days.
“I ain’t saying, Freddie boy, but just you keep your eye cocked. If that old rough-rider Lester thinks this here is a broncho-busting game, I'm telling you he’s got something to learn before he hits the ground.”
As events showed. Bud was right. In such matters, he nearly always is.
It was not that Lester was a roughrider, though he did appear to take a keen delight in watching the noses always at the grindstone. But strangely enough the crash came during one of his milder moments. He attempted something facetious at Bud’s expense, and the shot was a bull’s eye square upon the rawest spot of Bud’s dignity.
Finding the Boss' Weak Spots.
I ESTER’S humor, I remember, was
' one of those hand-me-down repeats which Adam doubtless rejected, and Bud's come-back was a wonder. The first few words of it shocked Lester into amazed silence. They identified him as “you cross-grained old bo-hunk with the saw-toothed ears,” and after that they rushed on in their characteristically tangled way. piling up epithet after epithe', and leaving real jabs «•very inch of the route. That is one of Bud’s peculiarities. He will mix his words in glorious abandon, but at the same time they have an uncanny knack of finding the weak holes in the armor and pricking the sore spots with annoying precision.
Just here one simply must give Bud credit for doing his work well. I have
never yet heard of him “telling off" a boss in an ineffective manner. There have been times when I have suspected that he makes a study of it, that from the day of his first arrival he looks about for the tender places in the boss’ make-up, and then spends time coining phrases to be ready for the inevitable emergency when the boss goes just a bit too far and has to be told off.
On this occasion, he scored on Lester with the frequency of a machinegun held dead-on. It was a revelation to me to discover what could be done with the mother-tongue, and I think 1 must confess that there was a little of that old hero-worship in my manner when it was all over.
“Well, s’long Freddie, keep the little back bent for the old buster,” Bud honored me with his farewells, and the queer part of it all was that there was no trace of anger or excitement in his manner. To him, it was but an essential part of some day’s work: “I got a swell job down the street. No kicking you around in the mud down there. Any time little Freddie wants to get out from under, just slip me the word.”
For two months after that, I saw much of Bud Slippington. He actually had the job he boasted about, and when we met daily at the quick lunch he used that glib tongue of his so effectively in painting the merits of Murdison’s that there were times when I began to cast the eye longingly at the greenness of distant fields. I was just about to cast out feelers for a change, when Bud dropped into lunch one day with “telling ’em off” written all over
“Yep,” he agreed readily, “Murdison wasn’t the kind of a gink I set him down for. Got to watch them that way, Freddie. They’ll play you along for a fish for a month or two, then, biff. Old Murdison’s a crab. He’s a yellowbacked horned-toad with an ugly streak running right to the end of his nose. But Freddie, you should have heard what I told him.”
“I sort of remember hearing what you said to Lester,” I interrupted.
“Lester?” Bud inserted some of that scornful laughter, “I handled Lester with kid gloves and didn’t even break a stitch. But, Oh Boy, what I said to Murdison!”
Judging from Bud’s high-pitched laughter, it must have been rich.
“Old Murdison, the pink-eyed trout, knows by this time that there’s one little boy in the world who won’t lie down in the muddy spots. You should have heard me, Freddie. It’d a done you good.”
By this stage, however, I was fairly well “on” to Bud Slippington, and I have been getting farther on ever since.
That was years ago, but even in that green stage of my business career I was beginning to see that Bud had the searching eye, and that employers would have to be a good deal different from the average run of humanity if Bud ever succeeded in finding one who did not have to be told off some time or other. The fault, I could see, was with Bud’s dignity.
It had become such a big thing even in those days that even the chance remark fired in some other direction would be apt to find Bud's dignity in front of it before it reached its target. Ho has an astonishing facility for getting in front of remarks like that. They may not have so much as a pointed barb when they start on their way. hut Bud can jump in front of tinnii, catch them upon that groa! Id-' -aw patch of his dignity, and when Inpull« out the darts tlu-y connwith a ripping sauna which vin-ws that, they must have grown batb. on the way
lie Stuck tor Otic Whole Year
>l'T IN spite •••' that carefullv-nurlured db-nity and that lightninglike, vaudevillian shuffling from one jot to another, there was one period in his career when he had a chance to snug-
gle down, ’way off the ordinary course of those imagined barbs which were forever seeking him out. For Bud has ability, oil kinds of it; and his constant circling through jobs of all colors has made him something of a chameleon.
The time when he seemed to have reached harbor and to have buried his dignity at sea was during that year when he stuck with Grover. A more mild-mannered man than Grover never existed, and it is hardly a compliment to him to recall that Bud remained a
However, that year marked the peak point in Bud’s highway of fortune. He climbed to it through the toil of slain dragons, alias employers, along the lower levels, but the moment he lopped off Grover’s head, the path began to dip downward again.
And because I knew that Bud was over the top of the crest and was on the way down, and for the further reason that I still have a sneakish twitting of conscience to think I lacked the courage to give Bud that junior chance in my own office, I have been watching him ever since.
It has been a skidway with Bud Slippington, and with the passing of the years the essential conflict with employers has added more choice words to his over-stocked vocabulary. It is twenty years or more now since Bud took his first step towards finding an employer who was fit to work for. Several times Bud has fancied for a few months that he had made a discovery, but last week when I saw Bud the search was still progressing.
Bud Tries the “Con.” Game
HE IS a changed Bud now, in many ways. But that flaring patch of dignity still stands out before him, bigger and redder and rawer than ever before.
I chanced to discover that the other night on a street car. After a hurried boarding, I found a “thick-skinned cheap skate of a louse-like” passenger getting his telling off from the con■ ductor who was perched behind the . P-A-Y-E cage. The passenger was ' purple-faced, but the familiar flow of
words which lashed out from the conductor’s tongue left him completely foundered and wordless. He is going to report that conductor, for he got off the car to do it.
But Bud’s incisive voice informed me that it didn’t matter after all.
“For,” as he put it to me, “I nearly had to tell off the inspector the other day. Of all the crab-like bull-finches that ever held down a chair, that inspector is one of the worst. He thinks every man’s his dog. But just you wait, Freddie, boy. I’m saving up a few for him, and the next time he opens his trap . . . . ”
Having some feeling of sympathy for that inspector whose name I do not even know, I do not care to be present when “it” happens.
But it is coming. I know that. The only thing which can stop it will be the death of Bud or of the inspector. Seeing employers through Bud’s eyes, one knows that it cannot be long before that inspector is going to step beyond the bounds, and accordingly have to be told off. And Oh Boy, the things he’ll
That is why I am sending out an appeal right now to all you employers who want Bud for a spell. In making applications for Bud’s services, you can line up two deep, on the' right side of the wicket. Get a book on self-restraint and modesty on the way over, and study it while in the line-up.
Bud, I can guarantee as absolutely reliable and efficient. Never knew him to steal a cent or give a dishonest day’s work, and he is a regular handy man. Can do anything, from shouting “Move up to the front, please,” to standing around the office with a frock coat, looking like the proprietor.
A useful person, is Bud. But perhaps you know him. There are only a few thousand of him in every city, so perhaps you do know Bud, after all.
If not, try him out. He will be a regular tonic. You will get a good day’s service as long as you last. And perhaps, if you are particularly good, you will last a month, or two ....
After that, the deluge.